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Over 8,000 prisoners access addiction services

The Irish Prison Service (IPS) told the Medical Independent (MI) that  8,057 prisoners accessed the alcohol and drug addiction services provided by Merchants Quay on behalf of the IPS from 2013 to 2015. “This represents individuals who attended counselling and group work. It does not include data on individuals who attended for very brief interventions categorised as being of 30 minutes or less,” the IPS said.

At the top of the list of 13 facilities was Wheatfield Prison, with 1,109 prisoners accessing addiction services during this period. This was followed by Mountjoy with 855 and Limerick at 813. Cloverhill prison saw 779 inmates access services, while Mountjoy West, the former St Pat’s institution, also had high numbers, with 628 seeking help.

The overall budget for the IPS’s drugs programme was €12.9 million during the 36 months.

As part of the IPS’s attempts to help prisoners tackle addiction, the medical unit in Mountjoy Prison has nine places specifically allocated for a drug-free programme. This programme is eight weeks in duration and is provided by prison staff and the community/voluntary sector. Over the three-year period, 157 prisoners took part, with just over a quarter failing to complete the programme.

Any person entering prison giving a history of misusing drugs such as heroin, etc, and testing positive for these drugs is offered a medically-assisted detox, if medically appropriate.

“Patients can discuss other treatment options with healthcare staff. These may include stabilisation on methadone maintenance for persons who wish to continue on maintenance while in prison and when they return to the community on release.” 

Methadone substitution treatment is available in 11 of the 14 prisons, accommodating over 80 per cent of the prison population.

While the IPS was unable to say how many prisoners enter prison already enrolled on the methadone programme, it did say that those on methadone will, for the most part, have their methadone substitution treatment continued while in prison.

Furthermore, a consultant-led in-reach addiction service is provided in Cloverhill and Wheatfield, with addiction specialist GP services provided at other prisons.

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